6 Min Read
Saturday 24 April 2010
Cinema operator Vue Entertainment is hiring financial advisers to conduct a strategic review that may lead to a sale. Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L), which owns 29 percent of the group, is preparing to sell a portfolio of equity stakes. Vue, which operates more than 600 cinema screens in the UK, is thought to be worth up to 440 million pounds ($680.5 million). It has a market share of almost 23 percent, and 100 screens with 3D capability.
Home Retail Group HOME.L is preparing to announce next week that it will return some of its 400 million pound cash pile to shareholders. The owner of Argos and Homebase is seeking to fend off mounting expectations of a takeover or break-up. Shares in Home Retail have increased recently amid talk of a bid, and on Friday closed up 6.8 pence at 294.8 pence. The downturn has seen Argos face more pressure from supermarkets looking to capture a greater share of the non-food market.
Hornby (HRN.L), the maker of hobby train sets, unveiled on Friday that it would return to a paying dividend and that full-year profits would be above expectations. The announcement pushed Hornby's shares up 15.3 percent to reach 136 pence. Although the financial year ending in March was challenging, the group said the end of the year was particularly strong, mostly because of a rise in sales of old railway inventory.
George McGregor has been sacked as finance director of Royal Liver, the mutual assurer, for making unauthorised payments to third parties. The announcement raises fresh doubts over the Liverpool-based assurer's future. The group has been in merger talks with rival Royal London, after talks with Liverpool Victoria, another assurer, ended last year. Royal London insists the decision will not affect the negotiations, which remained at an early stage.
A merger of two of the biggest property investment trusts will create the sixth-largest listed property group in the UK. The F&C Commercial Property Trust FCPT.L is set to merge with the UK Commercial Property Trust to create a new company that will have a market capitalisation of roughly 1.6 billion pounds. It will also have a property folio with net assets of 1.5 billion pounds. Ignis IGNIS.OL, the asset manager of UKCPT, has proposed that it will become the manager of the new group. Shares in FCPT closed up 0.7 pence at 94.7 pence, while UKCPT, which is owned by Phoenix Group (PHNX.L), saw its shares rise 1.65 pence to 82.6 pence.
A consortium of fans called CPFC 2010, which is the only interested party in Crystal Palace, the Championship football club that collapsed into administration in January, is unwilling to make a significant offer for its stadium. According to a person close to the situation, "what the consortium wants to pay for the stadium is less than a developer would pay". Crystal Palace owes Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) 11 million pounds and its fate now lies entirely with the bank.
Talks over NHP's 1.1 billion pound debt restructuring have been extended in an attempt to forestall the fire-sale of properties in its large portfolio of care homes. The complicated nature of the debt structure behind the portfolio means a sale of more than 800 million pounds of care homes managed by NHP is looking increasingly likely. Capita (CPI.L), the special servicer, is leading a strategy to dispose of the 297 NHP care homes.
Vince Cable believes "ashamed" bankers are likely to vote for the Liberal Democrats because of its plans to break up the banks and slash bonuses. The party's treasury spokesman says he does not believe the "empty threat" of bankers who say they would leave the country if a new government delivered radical City reforms. According to Cable, many bankers are "embarrassed" at the state of their industry.
Malcolm Calvert, the former partner of stockbroker Cazenove jailed for insider dealing, faces a bill of nearly one million pounds to repay his illegal profits and court costs. Calvert and a friend made an estimated 103,000 pound profit from buying shares in companies just before takeovers were announced between 2003 and 2005. His conviction last month was the most high profile win in the Financial Services Authority's market abuse crackdown.
For the first time, bonus rates on save as you earn (SAYE) schemes are to be cut to zero percent next month. However, concerns have been raised that some employees could shun participation in SAYE plans because there will be less incentive to save. Malcom Hurlston, chairman of the Employee Share Ownership Centre, a not-for-profit group, believes employees should not be put off from the schemes. "Even where no gains are possible, savers can walk away with all of their money," says Hurlston. The change will come into effect from May 14. ($1=.6465 Pound)